How Costco could use customer data to save lives

There is a reason companies involved in retail food distribution are paying their employees a premium during the Coronavirus Crisis, workers are risking death to come to work. And while the idea of strolling through the aisles and shopping as if nothing has changed may be reassuring to many, with every touch of a freezer door handle, checkout register, or close contact with a cashier, the risk of transmission rises. This is not how to do business in a pandemic, especially if you are sitting on every customers complete buying history through your database.

Costco has already seen the mad effect of hording, and has limited purchases of items in high demand. But, this still doesn’t solve the human interactions involved in processing these sales using their conventional sales processes. And, setting certain hours aside for seniors is nice, but, not protecting your employees anymore than normal.

This is a new normal, and the solution is simple: Build a list of every customers historic purchases based on frequency of purchase over the last 3 years. Create a pick list, with items purchased most often at the top. Send a pre-built cart to the customer via their customer ID- allow them to place an order, and have it picked, waiting for pickup outside the store at a designated time. Set the limits based on historic purchases- ie: I buy 18 rolls of Kirkland toilet paper every 8 weeks. The same would go for the new reality.

The non-grocery purchases, from toaster ovens to TV’s would still be available via the same cart- without restriction other than inventory constraints. And while there are some items that Costco may stock that I may need that are in high demand, but, I’ve not bought before, like a thermometer or hydrogen peroxide, these would be managed like any other inventory item, as needed, after the people who’ve historically bought it regularly have had first dibs.

While this system is being built for the Coronavirus crisis, it may become the new norm, especially as more people learn to plan more, shop less and realize that time is still a precious commodity.

As to the additional cost of having employees pick and fill orders, add a per order surcharge based on the size of the order. Trust me, customers will be willing to pay, and employees will feel a lot safer not having to interact with as many customers and risk contamination.

While this isn’t possible for most smaller businesses who don’t have the customer data, or the technology behind it, if there is anything this crisis will teach companies- it’s the value of a seasoned employee, who knows your business and how it operates. The costs of training, the costs of hiring, will become incredibly clear for those who lose parts of their workforce due to the pandemic.


A FREE Ad School

Free is the most powerful word in advertising. Knowing good advertising from bad advertising is the most important skill in advertising. Because we can’t expect all of our clients to go to some expensive ad school and learn what works and what doesn’t, we thought we’d provide a free education for them, and also for the budding young professionals who we hope to employ some day.

This is the introduction. We released the first three episodes all at once, so once you finish this one, on to the next at the tail of the video.

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We’d love to know if you want some other materials to go along with each episode.

Bloomberg buys Superbowl :60 other candidates should learn from it

The New York Times reports that Michael Bloomberg is buying a :60 in the Superbowl to attack Trump, spending north of $10M. Trump may buy a :30. For some reason, politicians seem to shy away from the Superbowl:

But the Super Bowl ad is a show of financial force rarely seen in presidential politics. Though some campaigns have made local advertising buys during past Super Bowls, a national buy has often been out of reach, given the expense. It is also usually viewed as wasteful to pay to reach a 50-state audience rather than buying ads in the swing states where campaigns would prefer to target their message.

Source: Bloomberg Takes On Trump With a $10 Million Super Bowl Ad - The New York Times

But, here’s the reality, there is no better ad buy any national candidate could make. Here’s why:

  • It’s early, and first movers advantage applies. This sends a “Go big or go home” message to the rest of the field.
  • It reaches like no other ad buy. It’s the only place an ad buy can guarantee not only an audience, but a discussion the day after.
  • Contrary to Google and Facebook’s claims of being able to reach everyone that matters, there are still people offline, and even if you are online, it’s impossible to hit everyone at once with the same message to start buzz.
  • Thanks to Youtube and social sharing, the conversation can continue a long-time after the running of the single ad. People still talk about Apple’s 1984 which only ran officially once, during the Superbowl.
  • Because he’s the only challenger buying a spot (as far as we know) he’ll own the political discussion after the game.
  • He’s missed the debate stage. This clearly puts him in the mix.
  • Smart tracking of visitors to his site after the spot, should give him a huge base to remarket to.

The real question is who is doing the creative and while attacking Trump for :60 the real goal is to move people to back Bloomberg. Since he’s the only candidate not asking for money, how does he measure the conversions he’s getting for his money? Most American’s don’t donate, most don’t volunteer to work on campaigns. For a big data guy, you’d expect something more than just eyeballs and shares.

The other campaigns will all spend $10M on media. They’ll make Alphabet and Facebook money. They will only target voters in swing states and have custom messaging and all kinds of other tactical goals. The reality is, Bloomberg will have set off an atomic bomb of a message, and the rest will forever be looking at the shadow caused by the blast.

Your thoughts? Please leave in comments.



Your interface is your product

NY Times app gets 1 star reviews after interface change

Change the interface, change your rating.

The New York Times is a very good newspaper and for a long time, it’s digital product was outstanding. Then someone had the brilliant idea to change the way millions of readers had to navigate the news. Gone was swipe between stories or sections. Immediately, the app started to get 1 star ratings.

Apple carved out their niche from Microsoft early on by offering a consistent, easy to use graphical user interface. Every application behaved the same way for most functions. Command S always meant “Save” Command P was “Print” and they had “Save As” for making a duplicate version- that you could rename- until some genius thought this wasn’t needed since they’d added versions. As someone who uses documents as templates a lot- “save as” was a lot easier than “duplicate” then “rename” and then “Move to” but, alas, someone had a better idea.

Voice command is the big new thing. Talking to machines to get them to do things is all the rage, so imagine my confusion when all of a sudden my Google “Smart device” stopped shutting off the music when I said “OK Google, Off” and started saying “I’m sorry, this device doesn’t have power management tools.”

There are lots of examples of companies trying to retrain customers that may prove fatal in the long run. Apple can’t seem to understand that the new iPhones may be the fastest ever, with the longest battery life and the best cameras but, apparently either price, size or maybe the missing big button at the bottom may be changes that customers aren’t ready to accept.

When you train your customer to do things a certain way, make sure you have a very good reason before you change things, and that your customer knows why.

If there is one thing about business in the day of the internet, your competitors and their alternatives are only a google search away. Think through interface changes as carefully as you change prices, distribution, packaging, suppliers and materials. Because your product may now be your interface.

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